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Monday, October 19, 2009


This is another word that we hear a lot about especially during training and more specifically, the Sexual Harassment class during the OPT (Off Post Training) or IST Block Training. But recently I’ve been hearing it more on the line in conversations with supervisors and between staff. Again I question if the department, Administration or even our union uses the dictionary’s definition or if they’ve made up their own… again, let’s look and see:

The American Heritage Dictionary, Second Edition states;
PERCEPTION (per-sep-shen) noun 1. The process, act, or faculty of perceiving. 2. The effect or product of perceiving… {So I looked up the root word, perceive}
PERCEIVE (per-sev) transitive verb 1. To become aware of directly through any of the senses, esp. to hear or see. 2. To take notice of; observe. 3. To become aware of in one’s mind; achieve understanding of.

How are we trained when it comes to ‘perception’ or what is ‘perceived’? I thought long about it, even asked a few people and we were all in agreement with CDCR’s definition. These are the answers I received;
• To ‘perceive’ is to possibly have the wrong understanding or view of what was said or done.
• ‘Perception’ is the viewpoint of one which may not have a clear understanding of what was said, done or viewed.
• If you ‘perceive’ something, someone may take an occurrence out of context than what the meaning is without hearing the full statement or seeing the full activity.
• To have something taken the wrong way.
Does the definition by CDCR standards mirror what is in the dictionary?

Administration has a double standard in definitions in certain areas that need to be crystal clear. They are deciding on people’s lives, careers, reputations, finances and futures on the definition of a word that is flipped like a proverbial two headed coin that always favor against us. Intimidation is also used if you attempt to answer without a positive yes or no regarding what you saw or heard. This intimidation tactic will leave you feeling questionable on how you feel on what you report because as a so-called ‘trained observer’, you are led to believe nothing will get past those eagle eyes if something happens in your area of responsibility. Well I have news for you… before you are an officer, you are human and sometimes you can be unsure of what you see or hear, especially walking in the middle of the conversation or incident.

My advice to any of you is to be sure before you report. And if you’re not sure, say you’re not sure. No one can use the truth against you and it does not look bad if you tell the truth and admit you aren’t sure of what you saw or heard. It does look bad if you attempt to boost yourself up in the eyes of supervisor’s or administration by reporting what you think you saw and not what actually happened. Let’s face it, there are times when we may be in a position to see, but not hear what lead up to an incident. Your ‘perception’ may be different than what the accurate truth is if you are not in the immediate area from the beginning of an incident and you may end up with your own veracity in question. if you don’t have all the answers and aren’t sure what you saw or heard, own up and stick to the fact that you don’t have all the answers. You will become more credible than you realize.

The hardest part of our job is not what may happen and how we react to it, but how we face ourselves every day and have to own up to not only our own actions but also our shortcomings. Our honesty and integrity is the strongest character we hold and they are always under attack. They are attacked on all fronts by inmates, other staff members, supervisors and administration. We must remain honest to ourselves. I would rather throw myself under the bus and admit being unsure, than be wrong about what I saw happen or over heard. I may not be looked at as the best witness but at least I can sleep with my integrity in tack knowing I was honest of what I reported. Remember, what you report may not only be used in a court of law, it may also be used to burn a fellow officer. Understand what you ‘perceive’ before you report because the definition that supervisors and Administration use may not be the one you comprehend. I’m just sayin…

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